01/10/2009 12:00AM

Pumpkin Shell up from last in Busanda


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Usually, when jockey Chuck Lopez wins a race, neither his face nor his silks has a speck of dirt on it. But the 48-year-old journeyman rider, known for his skill as a speed rider, was more than happy to be covered in Aqueduct sand and loam Saturday after guiding Pumpkin Shell to a one-length, last-to-first victory in the $72,020 Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct.

"It's never my choice," Lopez said when asked about winning a race from last, but that every time he rode a horse for trainer David Donk "I get dirty."

Saturday was the second straight time Lopez guided Pumpkin Shell to a victory from well off the pace. He was also aboard for Pumpkin Shell's maiden victory here on Dec. 4, which was the impetus for Donk to keep her in training for the winter.

"I knew she had a chance," Donk said after the Busanda. "It's nice to see her validate the last one, off the pace, be able to take the dirt in her face."

Lopez said Pumpkin Shell broke "just okay," and he let her settle in last while Miss Dartmouth set the pace chased by Southern Charmer with Flashing, the 8-5 favorite, and Missunitednations in the second flight.

Southern Charmer took the lead at the three-eighths pole, while Don't Forget Gil was in striking distance along the rail.

Turning for home, Pumpkin Shell still just had one horse beaten, but she was moving strongly. She was tipped to the four-path by Lopez in upper stretch, and she closed stoutly to get the win over a late-running Chocolate Pop. It was a half-length further back to Don't Forget Gil in third.

"I just bided my time,'' Lopez said. "When I called on her, that hole opened up, she just went right through. I think she won with something left."

Pumpkin Shell covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:42.30 and returned $26.80 to win.

Pumpkin Shell, owned and bred by the Dragone family's December Hill Farm, is a half-sister to Pays to Dream, who won the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day before suffering a career-ending injury when he ran third in the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day.

Donk said he would likely consider running Pumpkin Shell back in the $65,000 Busher Stakes here on Feb. 22.